The Director’s Cut

Michael and Theresa Drapkin, Kingston, NY, 11/22/15

Michael and Theresa Drapkin, Kingston, NY, 11/22/15

Call me Alan Smithee. (It doesn’t need to be Alana. I’m used to a name with a bit of gender ambiguity.) Of course I’m kidding (some)–there was no film. I merely declined a byline (but not the corresponding photo credit).

But unlike Michael Cimino who had to wait decades to rescue and show his film maudit/masterpiece (which wasn’t Smithee’d, rather released in 1980 bearing his name but hardly his intentions), I’m rather quickly presenting my edit of my piece on Michael and Theresa Drapkin’s Kingston, NY house and my photos which illustrated it. Plus a dual portrait that didn’t get selected.

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The stratospheric cost of New York real estate has made the city an inhospitable place for young dreamers, artists and entrepreneurs. In 2013, after a year of searching in Brooklyn for space for a wine store and a painting studio, Theresa and Michael Drapkin were frustrated. Longing for some r&r at an upstate b&b, they randomly booked a room at painter and poet Julie Hedrick and composer and musician Peter Wetzler’s Church des Artistes in downtown Kingston.

Michael had done some quiet research, pinpointing a liquor store on lower Broadway that was for sale but “it wasn’t clear that Kingston was our place—we were unaware of what was brewing. But Julie and Peter are amazing ambassadors for Kingston and the arts and for living deliberately.”

They went back to Greenpoint, their heads full of the possibilities and since that weekend, Michael and Theresa have transplanted their lives to Kingston and flourished. Kingston Wine Co. celebrated its second anniversary in its Broadway shop on 1/14/16.

“We saw our house, a short walk from the store, in May 2014, and were the first people to view it after it went on the market,” says Theresa. They were able to imagine the house without the laminate and linoleum (which when ripped up exposed the original hardwood), the walls’ odd color palette and rooms overstuffed with overstuffed furniture. They quickly made an offer.

“It was so fortuitous that both sets of our parents were downsizing as we were moving into the house in October 2014. Without them we’d have the marble-topped Saarinen oval dining table in the salon, the first piece of furniture we bought together, and sparsely furnished rooms,” says Michael. “And we were truly lucky that everything works with what we like—minimalism, comfort, approachability, pattern and color.”

Theresa adds, “My studio, directly above, and the same size as the salon, is also the size of our first apartment together—and we shared that with Tucker, our big black Lab. The gold chair with blue and white striped cushions is also a hand-me-down, from my great-uncle, who was an anesthesiologist and a crossword puzzle champion.”

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The exterior of the house was built entirely of brick in 1857 and a kitchen room was added onto the back in the early 20th century, possibly replacing one in the basement. The porch ceiling, bluejay blue wainscoting, “was traditionally used to give an illusion of sky,” says Theresa. The blue enamel house number is from Paris.  Adds Michael, “I’m a Francophile.”  Two sets of double doors with original glass lead inside.

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The moulding and woodwork in the dining room “was painted mauve. My mother and sister came up to Kingston and we painted almost everything white. It was like a sage cleaning of the house,” says Theresa.  The interior doors—and there are 24 of them, not counting the beautiful curved pocket doors that separate the dining room and the salon—are “an elegant, classic black.” The deer head (which a friend nicknamed Bucky), hanging in the hallway separating the dining room from the living room, was found at Ron Sharkey’s Black Barn in High Falls.

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“The living room is where we nested first, the first room that was finished. We call it Tucker’s room and everything came from our families,” says Michael. “The walls are painted charcoal gray (Valspar Muted Ebony), the same color as Kingston Wine Co.’s exterior walls.”

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The elegant tableau of art, objects, books, flowers and greenery on the mantle above the living room’s working fireplace is in constant flux.

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The hutch, original to the kitchen, stretches nearly to the ceiling and the glass-fronted cabinet doors safeguard, among other cherished objects, Wedgwood from Michael’s side of the family, and Limoge, from Theresa’s. The pitcher, here holding flowers from Hops Petunia, was included in Theresa’s MFA thesis exhibit at Pratt. “Objects can serve as repositories of memory,” she says.

The wine, from a vineyard on Bandol, Domaine Tempier (originally owned by Lulu Peyraud, “France’s greatest home chef”) is “an absolute favorite. The shop gets three bottles a year,” says Michael. “Wine is not just fermented grapes. It encapsulates so many areas of study, including English, poetry and history. In my junior year, I ripped up a law school acceptance letter and got a job in Washington, D.C., at Whole Foods in the wine department.”

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The dining room table, bought by Michael’s parents when he was five, continues to be the site of delicious meals, celebratory and quotidian. The light fixture, hanging from the 10-foot ceiling, was made by Milne, Inc., from a 19th century cast-iron trough still retaining its original patina. The mantel (which had faux green marble finish), like the one in the living room, also features a continuously changing display. In the salon, a 19th century French gathering basket, transformed into a lighting fixture by Milne, Inc., was installed above the Saarinen table.

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The sideboard was milk-painted French blue by Milne, Inc. Theresa’s painting, “English Gardens,” 2015, was inspired by Mark Laird’s book,  “A Natural History of English Gardening.” The curved shelf is original to the house.

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The salon also has 10-foot ceilings, and decorative plaster and woodwork. Theresa says, “I love the work of floral designers. And I also love arranging my own foraged flowers, berries and branches,” which carries over into her work. “Overgrown,” 2015 hangs between the windows and the fireplace. Her second pastel, made in 2012, a portrait of Michael when he had a beard, is reflected in the mirror.

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At the top of the stairs, beyond an graceful archway, Michael and Theresa installed shelves in the “book nook.” Michael says, “We love books—art, fiction, biography, travel literature—and have always acquired them. There are great finds to be had at the Kingston Library sale.” A selection of books are arranged to display their intriguing covers. “Favorites from the 50s,” says Theresa, who has a background in graphic design. Michael did his homework and wrote his papers at the desk. The 1920s chair, probably from an office factory, came from Milne, Inc.

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The Kong toy at the foot of the bed belongs to Claude, Michael and Theresa’s one-year-old yellow Lab. “Michael slept on it growing up but now it’s really Claude’s bed,” says Theresa. The bedside table came from Ron Sharkey’s Black Barn in High Falls. The lamp sitting on it is crowned with one of Theresa’s collection of vintage black lampshades. The door to the right of the table leads to the back staircase, the other two are closets.

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A portrait of Louise Bourgeois is taped to the wall in Theresa’s studio. “Her great and diverse body of work—sculpture, paintings, textiles—constantly inspires me.” Theresa, who likes to work from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am, “when everything’s quiet,” says of her favorite medium, “In graduate school, I started painting with watercolors and pastels. There was enough room to work on the kitchen table in our studio apartment and it was easy to clean up. Now I use pastels in a deeply saturated, clean, color-blocked style. I love the immediacy and vibrancy. My paintings are casually representational still lifes of botanical and domestic scenes, framed using frames I find in flea markets, roadside and yard sales and antiques stores. ” (Theresa’s lipstick is called Lady Danger and it has since been eaten by Claude.)

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Claude, who was described by his breeder to Theresa and Michael as “confident and curious”  (Michael says, “x100”), likes to look out the original glass of the salon’s floor-to-ceiling windows, observing the neighbors, passersby, and animals, domesticated and otherwise.

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“When we first got here, although it was amazing to have found such a great outdoor space in downtown Kingston, it was kind of Grey Gardens-ish,“ says Theresa. “The bricks were covered with mud and leaves. The fence was falling down. Restoring it was a lot of work. But now we’re out here almost every day in all four seasons, for coffee, reading, lunch, dinner, even Thanksgiving. We can see two church steeples and hear the bells.” The barn-like garage was built six years ago by the house’s previous owners. The table came from the much-missed High Falls Mercantile, the chairs from Michael’s parents, the bench from Ron Sharkey’s Black Barn and the vase, a re-purposed umbrella stand from Theresa’s mother, holds dried hydrangeas (Theresa’s favorite flower) from bushes in the front yard.

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Jacques Rivette 1928-2016

Jacques Rivette, NYC, 2001

Jacques Rivette, NYC, 9/28/01

The great director Jacques Rivette, who began his career as a writer at Cahiers du Cinéma and was part of the legendary French New Wave, has died at 87.

Rivette’s films were less-seen (and often less-appreciated) than those of his famous contemporaries. BAMcinématek did its part to correct that with its recent screenings of “the holy grail” of cinema, the 750-minute “Out 1: Noli me Tangere” (1970).

Today’s edition of Fandor’s Keyframe features excerpts and links to essential writing about Rivette and his work.

Jeanne Balibar, Jacques Rivette and Hélène de Fougerolles, NYC, 9/28/01

Jeanne Balibar, Jacques Rivette and Hélène de Fougerolles, NYC, 9/28/01

(I know this is a story I’ve told–and written about–before.) I photographed Jacques Rivette when he accompanied “Va Savoir” to the 39th New York Film Festival. It was two weeks after 9/11 and Greenwich Street, running south, was closed to most vehicular traffic, enforced by a wide barricade and a bunch of friendly cops, whom I saw each time I walked home from farther uptown. I assumed Rivette was in good shape, able to walk the three blocks to my studio, but uncertain, I visited the sergeant and secured permission for the car service to bring him, Jeanne Balibar and Hélène de Fougerolles to me.

But they arrived on foot, commenting on the cobblestones and asking about a restaurant they’d passed (a favorite, Stacey Sosa’s Estancia 460).

Annoyed at the broken promise, I walked to Canal Street after the shoot. “What happened? I though we discussed letting the car down the street.”

“Did you see those women?” asked one of New York’s finest, grinning. (Duh, obviously.) “We just wanted to get a better look, see them walk.”

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Snowless in Stone Ridge (Stillwater Diary)

Stone Ridge, NY, 1/24/16

Stone Ridge, NY, 1/24/16

Jonas, hugging the coast, totally spurned this part of the Hudson Valley. Almost February and the ground is brown, very strange. But winter isn’t entirely MIA. With a few consecutive days of below freezing temperatures, ice sculpture is forming in the Groverkill where it pours out of the larger culvert, the Esopus is beginning to harden and The Swamp, relatively shallow, is perfect for skating.

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The “Little Shots” and the “Senior Sex Workers”

Arturo Ripstein, NYC, 10/7/97

Arturo Ripstein, NYC, 10/7/97

“Bleak Street,” director Arturo Ripstein’s uncomfortably entertaining new film, is a true (and way stranger than fiction) crime story, ripped from local headlines and filmed in luminous, high-contrast black and white. Dilapidated apartments and exterior walls, lived-in faces, outrageous outfits and elaborate wrought iron railings become hyperreal and have an odd beauty.

Ripstein (whose friend and early mentor was Luis Buñuel) is deep into 21st century Los Olvidados territory. His Mexico City hustlers and strugglers include identical twin midget “shadow” luchador wrestlers, Little Death (Juan Francisco Longoria) and Little AK-47 (Guillermo López), who never remove their form-fitting masks. Their squat tiger mother beams around her beloved boys and is disdainful of their wives.

Adela (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) and Dora (Nora Velázquez), old pals, working girls willing (and financially compelled) to strut their stuff, although they’re well-aware they’ve aged out of the market, are rattled by their diminished opportunities. Dora is supporting her adored husband (a secret cross-dresser pilfering her best work clothes) and a teenage daughter interested in cellphones, short skirts and boys. Dislodged from her well-located esquina by the tough female neighborhood pimp, Adela takes “her old woman” (not necessarily a relative, but cared for) out to beg to supplement their income.

The twins book the old pros for a celebratory romp after a triumph in the ring. Their fateful shacking up in a by-the-hour hotel is both bizarre and funny and the tragic accident is caused by not carefully considering weights and measures.

An incongruously rousing tune heard over the over the end credits has the upbeat singer   repeating, “Mexico! Mexico!” It’s as if he’s saying the limited lives and lunacy are to be expected, an echo of “It’s Chinatown, Jake.”

“Bleak Street” will open on Wednesday, January 20 at Film Forum for a two-week run. A Skype Q&A with Arturo Ripstein and screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego will follow the 7:10 pm show on Friday, January 22.

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Their Aim Is True

Bridge Group Artists

Bridge Group Artists

With the Bridge Group Artists‘ canvas, paper, pencils and paints stored away, their studio serves quite nicely as Gallery 300.  The Bridge/Museum of Modern Art’s latest partnership exhibit, “Finding Center” (including work by Jonathan Maronge, who recently joined BGA), opens Tuesday, January 19, at 248 West 108th Street, with a reception from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm and remarks at 3:15 pm. (If you’re a collector, arrive early.)

Program director, astute, no-nonsense and compassionate art therapist Judith Raskin-Ronsenthal, says, “The show is the most beautiful and inspirational one we’ve put together yet.” She adds that the artists were influenced by several 2015 exhibits at MoMA, particularly the 60 small tempera paintings featured in  “One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series.”

Long-time BGA member, Scott Zwiren, published three limited-edition artist books in August 2015, “Telling Stories,” “Seeing Things,” and “Painting Pictures,”  which are a “culmination of twenty-five years of work that went through versions as novels, plays, improvisation, and even music before their completion.”

“Finding Center” continues at Gallery 300 through January 31, and then it travels to MoMA’s education department gallery, 4 West 54th Street, and will be on view from February 1 through February 28. An opening reception is on Wednesday, February 10, from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

(BGA portraits above, top row, left to right: Francisco Ortiz, Michael Blamo, Jonathan Maronge; second row, left to right: Rosalia Silva, Glenn Grancio, Eugenia Aledo; third row, left to right: Chris Zavalo, James Sneed, Ira Brewer; bottom row, left to right: Robert Kaplan, Patricia Doherty, Scott Zwiren.)

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Long Island and the World: NYJFF25

Todd Solondz, NYC, 12/1/95

Todd Solondz, NYC, 12/1/95

Todd Solondz’s great “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” a dead-on look at a particularly painful adolescence, is having a 20th anniversary screening as part of the 25th edition of the New York Jewish Film Festival. The independent classic is very (darkly) funny–ha-ha, with one of cinema’s most peculiar heroines, beleaguered, bespectacled Dawn “Weinderdog” Weiner (a perfect Heather Matarazzo). It won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

Solondz, this year’s guest director, chose Alain Resnais’ “Night and Fog” (1955), to screen after his film. Shot in an abandoned and quiet Auschwitz, 10 years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp, Resnais’ documentary retains a harrowing power. On selecting Night and Fog, Todd Solondz writes, “I saw “Night and Fog” in college and it stuck with me as a touchstone for speaking of the unspeakable, evoking the unevocable, memorializing without pomp. I can’t say it ‘inspired’ me, but it’s always stood as a kind of monument: What is worth our time and attention? What matters? Who are we?”

Co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Jewish Museum, the 2016 festival includes 38 features from 12 countries, a 10-film retrospective of highlights from previous years, a master class on filmmaking with director Alan Berliner, an evening of shorts and a panel discussion on how to engage today’s film audiences.

The New York Jewish Film Festival, runs through Tuesday, January 26 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and “Night and Fog” screen tonight at 8:45 pm.

Heather Matarazzo, Oyster Bay, New York, 6/16/00

Heather Matarazzo, Oyster Bay, New York, 6/16/00

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Permanence and Fracture

John Perreault, left to right, “Mended Rocks” (detail), 2006 and “Mended Stones,” 2004, the Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, Queens, 10/6/15

“Museum of Stones,” is the first exhibit at the Noguchi Museum to bring other artists’ work into the eponymous sculptor’s elegant, light-filled building and garden. Marking the Museum’s 30th anniversary and “engaging Noguchi’s work in a contemporary conversation,” more than 40 artists are featured, including Scott Burton, Janine Antoni, Keith Sonnier, Joseph Kosuth, Jimmie Durham, Mel Bochner, Yoko Ono, Vija Celmins, Tom Sachs and John Perreault.

Stones (in human time, if not geological) are solid, less subject to the erosion of seasons. Seen from above, at a distance, Perrault’s two pieces, “Mended Stones” (2004) and “Mended Rocks” (2006), could be skies crowded with stars or oceans full of islands. But viewed in close-up, each stone reveals it has a suffered a fine fracture and been repaired. Permanence is change, resilience, before/after.

John, who died in September, was an artist and art critic, poet, activist, and he ran museums. He was brilliant, funny, sarcastic, handsome, the beloved husband of my dear friend Jeff Weinstein and the irreplaceable friend and colleague of so many (including Mark and me).

I exited the elevator, excited to tour a large installation of Alice Neel’s portraits at the (then uptown) Whitney and chose to move clockwise around the room. I reached the last painting, and looking at it, I was suddenly laughing. It was John, reclining, and although I knew him well, of course I’d had never seen him totally naked. And it wasn’t just John’s dishabille that felt incongruous–it was oddly pleasing to see a friend’s portrait, by a great artist, in a major museum.

An older woman, well-dressed in the perennial style of the monied Upper East Sider, regarded me with horror and expressing her disapproval, demanded my silence and said, “Modern art is not funny.”

Today is the last day to view “Museum of Stones” at the Noguchi Museum, which is open until 6:00 pm. The show opened in another season and although I’m always timely on this blog, I couldn’t write sooner, failing several times, because the piece required using the past tense.

John Perreault and Jeff Weinstein, Stone Ridge, 5/25/08

John Perreault and Jeff Weinstein, Stone Ridge, 5/25/08

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